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Repeated Calls For Release Of Website Editors Who Criticized Life-Threatening Working Conditions in Chinese Factories

"Wei and his colleagues should be released and hailed as heroes for covering the laboring class, which China's communist leaders have abandoned"

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China
A migrant worker sits next to his belonging against a wall displaying a Chinese government propaganda message at the Beijing railway station in Beijing, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. China's economic growth hit a three-decade low in 2018, adding to pressure on Beijing to beef up stimulus measures and settle a tariff war with Washington. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) RFA

International press freedom groups, labor unions and rights groups are calling for the release of three editors of a labor rights website detained by authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called this week for the immediate release of editor-in-chief Yang Zhengjun and his colleagues Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing, all of whom worked for the Xinshengdai (New Generation) website at www.ilabour.net.

Yang was detained in the provincial capital Guangzhou in January, while Wei and Ke were detained on March 20.

All three had criticized life-threatening working conditions in some Chinese factories, via their website which focused on news affecting China’s tens of millions of internal migrant workers.

“There are absolutely no grounds for their detention,” RSF’s East Asia bureau chief Cédric Alviani said in a statement on the group’s website. “Investigating factory safety is not a crime, but on the contrary an important contribution for the Chinese public’s access to information.”

China
China holds the highest number of journalists in prison, with at least 60 currently behind bars, according to RSF. The country ranked 176 out of 180 in the 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index.

In Hong Kong, around 20 representatives of labor groups in the city staged a protest outside the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s representative office on Wednesday to call for the release of dozens of labor activists by the Chinese government.

Chung Chung-fai, vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) called on Beijing “to release all detained labor activists, withdraw charges against them, halt repression against them and revise its legislation to be in line with international standards and international labour conventions, especially regarding freedom of association,” the group said.

Meanwhile, the London-based rights group Amnesty International said Wei could be at risk of torture.

“Wei … was taken away by police officers from his home in Shenzhen,” the group said in statement on its website. “No direct contact has been made with him since his arrest and, without access to a lawyer of his choice, he is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” it said.

Wei’s wife, the prominent feminist writer Zheng Churan, said on Wednesday that she has been unable to confirm her husband’s location so far, but that she believes he is being held in the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center.

Repeated calls to the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Assistance to migrants

A Guangdong-based rights activist who asked to remain anonymous said Wei and his coworkers were likely detained because of their advocacy on behalf of migrant workers suffering from pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, and their attempts to win compensation.

“I think this is likely to do with the assistance they gave to the migrant workers from Hunan who are suffering from pneumoconiosis,” the activist said. “Several hundred pneumoconiosis sufferers from Hunan launched a complaint last November in Shenzhen.”

“Their treatment hadn’t worked, and they had spent a lot of money on it,” he said. “If each person was awarded 100,000 yuan (U.S. $14,840), that would be 30 million yuan (U.S. $4.5 million) in total, so that’s why the Shenzhen authorities detained [the editors] in a hurry.”

Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a recent statement: “The arrest of Wei Zhili is just the latest example of how frightened China’s leadership is of journalists who expose the truth about labor conditions in China.”

“Wei and his colleagues should be released and hailed as heroes for covering the laboring class, which China’s communist leaders have abandoned,” he said.

Widening crackdown

The three editors’ detentions come amid an ever-widening crackdown on grassroots labor movements in Chinese factories.

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Yang was detained in the provincial capital Guangzhou in January, while Wei and Ke were detained on March 20. Pixabay

Activists have called for the release of more than 40 former workers at the Jasic Technology factory in Guangdong province and members of the Jasic Workers’ Solidarity Group (JWSG), who were supporting them.

At least 44 labor activists, students, and recent graduates of China’s top universities have been “disappeared” or criminally detained since the nationwide crackdown on the Jasic labor movement, which started in July and continued with further waves of arrests and detentions in August, September, November, and January, the JWSG reported on its Github page.

Among the “disappeared” are Sun Yat-sen University graduate and Jasic movement spokeswoman Shen Mengyu and Peking University #MeToo campaigner Yue Xin.

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Shang Kai—a former editor for the Maoist website Red Reference who was supporting the Jasic campaign—was released on “bail” under conditions preventing him from appearing in public.

China holds the highest number of journalists in prison, with at least 60 currently behind bars, according to RSF. The country ranked 176 out of 180 in the 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index. (RFA)

Next Story

Huawei Dominates Chinese Smartphone Market With 39% Share, Xiaomi Slips To 5th Spot

Xiaomi with 8.1 million shipments, got 9.5 per cent slice of the pie

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Huawei
Meanwhile, in a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker. Wikimedia Commons

Telecom and smartphone giant Huawei extended its dominance in the China market in the fourth quarter of 2019 with a massive 39 per cent market share and 33.3 million unit shipments while Xiaomi slipped to fifth spot with a mere 8.1 million shipments and 9.5 per cent slice of the pie, Singapore-based market research firm Canalys has revealed.

For the calendar year 2019, Huawei had an impressive 142 million shipments in the domestic market — a 35 per cent growth over 2018.

Oppo with 65.7 million and Vivo with 62.7 million were the other two shipment leaders for the full year 2019. Xiaomi with 38.8 million and Apple with its 27.5 million completed the top-five list for 2019.

In the fourth quarter (October-December period), Oppo retained the second spot with 14 million units shipped and a 16.4 per cent market share.

Vivo grabbed the third spot with 13.1 million shipments and 15.4 per cent market share, followed by Apple at the fourth place with 10.1 million sales and 11.8 per cent market share.

Xiaomi with 8.1 million shipments, got 9.5 per cent slice of the pie. Notably, all these major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) had significant declines compared to the Q4 2018 values. Total smartphone sales for 2019 came out to 369 million units which is a 7 per cent down on a yearly basis.

Huawei
Telecom and smartphone giant Huawei extended its dominance in the China market in the fourth quarter of 2019 with a massive 39 per cent market share and 33.3 million unit shipments while Xiaomi slipped to fifth spot with a mere 8.1 million shipments and 9.5 per cent slice of the pie, Singapore-based market research firm Canalys has revealed. Pixabay

Meanwhile, in a breather to the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant Huawei, the Pentagon has blocked the Commerce Department-backed ban on sales that make it harder for US-based companies to sell equipment to the handset maker, the media has reported.

The US Department of Commerce had put Huawei on the “entity list” in May 2019, thus, preventing US firms from conducting business with the company unless they obtain a specific license, citing national security concerns with the Chinese telecommunications giant.

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The UK has also decided to let China’s Huawei continue to be used in its 5G networks but with restrictions, including banning its equipment in the network’s “sensitive parts”, like the core, and capping the presence of its kit in the network’s periphery to 35 per cent. (IANS)